After spending the first two weeks of my travels in the north of India at Tushita Meditation Center in a Medicine Buddha Retreat, my tropical bones commanded me to escape to the warmer temperatures of the Indian coast. As soon as possible, I boarded the first plane “to south” as the locals say, destination Goa. Goa, a western coastal state, once colonized by the Portuguese, reminds me a lot of the coast of Guatemala, its temperature, humidity and agricultural landscape, lots of banana plantations, coconuts, papayas, tropical jungle like vegetation and a slower more relaxed pace, everyone is in a “Shanti Shanti” state of mind (peace, peace).
We arrived by airplane to cut a little bit of travel time from north, arriving to the airport in Goa and seeing what options were available for getting to the beaches. The airport taxis inside are always a little more expensive, and taking buses are a bit of a pain in the ass making you switch a few times over, before getting to where you need to go. Sharing a taxi is best with anyone from your flight if possible and you can make new travel friends. We negotiated one guy down to R1200 / US$18 / 15 Euros to take us to Arambol approximately 50km away. Not too shaby..
Needless to say, I’m enjoying MUCH warmer weather 32C/89F staying in a private beach hut with ocean views but it’s not as luxurious as it sounds, sometimes the mice will crawl into the hut, crossing over the ceiling beams, to scope out the area for morsels of food. No need to complain when a night costs approximately R400 / 5 Euros / US $6. The sand, sun, beach huts, yog shalas, Hello to the Queens & sunset drum circles draw in artisans, travelers and even the Russians (main source of tourism in Goa’s beaches) to relax, hang out and let the time pass on this beautiful coastline. It’s extremely easy to just stay here longer, than expected or planned, so it’s best to just not have plans and LET IT FLOW, like the ebb and flow of these Arabian ocean waves.
I took a few classes of Iyengar yog with Alex while here, for those interested in a comprehensive practice for peace of body and mind, yog (dubbed yoga with an A in the west) has many different shapes and forms- Hatha, Ashtanga, Shivananda, Iyengar, Yin, amongst others…I hadn’t tried Iyengar yog until now. It takes quite a few years of practice and training for Iyengar teachers to become certified to be able to teach – a HUGE focus is placed on alignment and adjusting people in different asanas (postures as well as stretches). Classes will have a wide age range of students, but especially appealing to your +35 target up to +60. Since every -body- is unique – teachers need to have an exceptional eye and experience for making the right adjustments per person. You will find relief for chronic pain, and release blockages with just one class- usually lasting at least 2 hours. Alex will stretch your life (and body) out like never before. He is in Arambol beach every season in this outdoor studio with lots of props used for finding the right alignment and adjustments for all those who show up on their mat. Typically you’ll have several chairs, stools, blankets, blocks, even ropes for hanging upside. No experience is needed, come as you are. Catch Alex Tuesday through Saturday mornings when you visit Arambol beach, 1010 recommended!
What’s for eats? This is always a fun part of travel, at least I’m always looking forward to trying new things, and even seeing how with same or similar ingredients, Indians create flavorful dishes tickling all the tastes. Indian food is definitely one of my favorites, in general the Asian continent has sooooo many delicacies, but I digress… In Arambol beach, you’ll find Indian gravys but also Western food. Speaking of which, one of my to go breakfast selects is the “overnight oats”, and its exactly how it sounds, soaked overnight, cooling in the fridge, waiting to cool you down the next day. Everything tastes better when shared, this breakfast/snack is handmade with a lot of oats, strawberries, bananas, choco avo mouse, get yours at Little World Cafe when you are in town. It’s perfectly cooling, as this warm weather (highs of 40C/104F!!) works on your body throughout the day. I’d also recommend their iced coffee with a scoop of vanilla on top, to be enjoyed on their yellow swings. Another favorite of mine is the Spinach (palak paneer) veg gravy with garlic naan (wheat flower flatbead) but pace-your-bloody self. The gravy is heavy on non Indian stomachs. Through experience, I need to space out my gravys, take a few days break and let the desire build up and let your stomach prepare for it!
How about spices and teas? There are sooooo many spice stands everywhere, and this makes the biggest difference in cooking Indian dishes. Even the process for cooking is quite different in order to capture all the flavors. I love admiring these spice stands, their smells and colors are like eye candy, I dream of making exotic dishes with them as they lure and invite you to take them home….maybe before I leave India…
South Goan beaches are also stunning, although Arambol is not such a party beach as other North Goan beaches, in South Goa you will find an even quieter vibe, but it everything is in divine order and comes at the right time.
Heading to South Goa in our private taxi, a very luxurious transportation experience for these two traveling backpackers…but we still managed to negotiate well I think…
In the heart of Palolem beach I was able to practice Hatha yog with Swami Shivanand. His shala is between the main road and beach at Shiva Yoga Centre. It doesn’t matter what level of practice you have or if you don’t have a practice yet, he will guide you through. I felt very comfortable trying back bending as far as I felt comfortable; somehow his presence inspired and instilled trust. Quick Tip: the season runs until end of April before monsoon, so it you can plan your trip a little later you’ll have your more space and privacy for practice without the rush of high season and private satsang time with Swami.
Nestled between Palolem and Patnem beach, find this cute little hideaway and beach tucked away. This place is perfect for honeymooners or couples who want to retreat away. Thank you to my friend @chillired73 for the company and insider travel tricks. He’s been coming to Palolem beach every season for the past couple of years, meeting friends and locals, winding down from the London year long buzz.
Aaaand here is moi. I found a seat in paradise between Palolem and Patnem beach, with my perfect match, what do you think?!
Meanwhile, strolling by… mother’s love
After a few days (because you never remember and always forget to count as you ease more into the vibe) of chilling on the beach, yog, coffee, vegan raw cakes, engaging other travelers, life stories and travel tips, we’re ready for the next piece of the journey!
THE PEOPLE WE MEET:
One of the most memorable parts of my travels and my trip through India is the people that I meet along the way and that become part of the bigger picture of my life’s perspective. Everyone has a life story, personal experiences that have molded them and that are drivers for where they find themselves today- essentially- everything is a piece to the puzzle. I find them to be courageous, kind, generous and special, in their own way. Without these individuals, my experience in travel would also be different, wouldn’t it? This is Marta; we met at Dharamshala during the Medicine Buddha Retreat at Tushita Meditation Center, my first stop in India. Needless to say, we got to know each other much more after the silent 10 day retreat! Marta, another friend, and I, without any plans ended up sharing a room in “Little Lhasa” / Mcleod Ganj for a few days and it was nice to experience this place together. Marta is a travel writer and travel photographer from Slovakia. She is in love with Asia and her top destinations are Nepal, Mongolia and Central Asia. Besides sharing tips and tricks on travelling and lifestyle she is focusing on writing inspirational stories and interviews. As she says,
“My home is where my backpack is”
Marta is a long term traveler, which is very different to a tourist, someone taking vacation or someone traveling for a few months. They have a very different way of traveling and living the day to day. She has traveled to 45 countries, her next destination is Nepal. Follow Marta’s backpack @marta.rajkova, www.martarajkova.com on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Pinterest.